On Friday, Senegalese President and African Union Chair Macky Sall strode into a conference and shook a smiling Vladimir Putin’s hand just before getting a seat next to him to go over the war in Ukraine.
In a notable reversal of normal roles, Sall led an African delegation to Russia to maintain talks with the Russian president about the European war.
The seemingly cosy scene — which took place in the southwestern metropolis Sochi on the 100th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — marked a important phase forward in Sall’s attempts to strengthen Africa’s international political standing.
“A large component of humanity is incredibly attentive to what is going on” in Ukraine, Sall reported, elevating the need to absolutely free up cereal and fertiliser stocks for export.
“I came to see you to talk to that you be conscious that our nations around the world, even though they are much from the theatre [of war], are the victims of this disaster on an financial stage,” he claimed.
Moscow’s army marketing campaign in Ukraine and a barrage of worldwide sanctions on Russia have disrupted materials of fertiliser, wheat and other commodities from equally nations.
Cereal prices in Africa, the world’s poorest continent, have surged, sharpening the impact of conflict and local climate alter and sparking fears of social unrest.
4 months into Sall’s a single-12 months expression as AU chair, the diplomatic mission to Russia is just a single of a number of formidable strategies the Senegalese chief has released on the environment phase.
He has also identified as for two permanent African seats on the UN Safety Council, advocated for the AU to be part of the G20 and demanded OECD reform to permit more time bank loan periods to African nations around the world.
“It is fantastic leadership, making confident that the voice of the African continent is heard, and heard loud and distinct in present day planet,” said Alioune Tine, the founder of the Dakar-centered feel tank Afrikajom Middle.
He described Sall’s mission to Europe as “absolutely unparalleled.”
“It is Europeans usually who get concerned in African wars now if Africans do mediation, it really is an excellent issue,” he reported in French.
A dozen African nations around the world, together with Senegal, rely on Russia and Ukraine for at least half of their wheat imports, according to the UN’s Meals and Agriculture Organisation.
A lot of nations around the world are sensation the blended results of delayed grain exports and rising fuel costs.
– Lofty goals –
In a new joint press meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Sall mentioned African nations were being “deeply divided” on the Ukraine conflict. He repeated phone calls for a ceasefire.
“For Africa, we want peace … We want peace even if we condemn the invasion,” he said, even though he himself has revealed reticence to obviously condemn Russia’s aggression.
Senegal on March 2 abstained from a UN Normal Assembly vote to need “that Russia right away cease the use of pressure versus Ukraine.”
It did vote for a 2nd resolution on March 24 demanding that Russia end the war immediately.
Virtually 50 percent of the African nations around the world abstained or did not vote in both votes.
Russia has been creating inroads in Africa in modern decades via army alliances and arms promotions. In 2019, Putin hosted dozens of African leaders in Sochi in a bid to reassert Russia’s affect on the continent.
Sall, who had been invited Friday by Russia, also spoke by phone with Putin on March 9. On April 11, he held a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On Saturday, Sall will be part of an ECOWAS summit in Accra to examine the putsches in neighbours Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
He has also been invited to this month’s G7 summit in Germany.
“President Macky Sall’s objectives are fairly lofty … but he cannot reform the UN, the G20, and the OECD in six months,” claimed Ibrahim Nyei, a Liberia-based fellow with the Centre for Democracy and Progress.
“I imagine the African Union need to confront these troubles stage-by-phase and prioritise them, and the best global organisation where by you happen to be likely to affect would be the UN Safety Council.”
– ‘Africa ought to have a say’ –
In a modern speech to youthful African leaders, Sall reported he needs two long-lasting African customers on the Safety Council — or a reform of the guidelines so that 1 state by yourself cannot veto decisions.
He approximated African concerns make up 70 per cent of the council’s enterprise.
“Africa need to have a say,” mentioned Mbaye Babacar Diop, a Dakar-based mostly marketing consultant. “We have a lot more than one billion individuals.”
With robust ties to France and the US, as properly as relations with China, Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Senegal has a single of the broadest diplomatic insurance policies in Africa.
“Senegal has constantly been a good nation of diplomacy,” dating back again to the initial president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, explained Tine.
But, analysts say, in purchase to maintain legitimacy overseas, Sall will have to make sure his own home is in purchase.
Senegal has confronted a selection of domestic crises in the four months due to the fact he took the AU reins.
Last 7 days, a hospital hearth in the western city Tivaouane killed 11 new child toddlers, just a single of numerous the latest tragedies to spark countrywide outcry about the country’s well being expert services.
Sall had to rush back from an AU summit in Equatorial Guinea.
In the meantime, critics panic he will exploit constitutional alterations accredited in 2016 to argue that a two-time period presidential limit does not apply, in get to run for a third phrase in 2024.
People fears contributed to Senegal’s worst protests in decades in 2021.
He has claimed he will announce his choice after legislative elections in July.
“He must not neglect the Senegalese issues, he have to not neglect the African concerns, he will have to not neglect the world wide difficulties — he ought to do all the things at the very same time,” Diop claimed.